Nitish Kumar should soon pick a side, his ambivalence will only dent his image of decision-maker

As the chief minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar is known for his decision making abilities, but his ambivalent approach — reflected in his latest political discourses — as the president of Janata Dal (United) has left even some of his ardent supporters confused.

Though he didn't take any names, his latest comments and criticism has fueled speculation of political realignment amid reports of his party’s differences with other Mahagathbandhan allies — Congress and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).

File image of Nitish Kumar. PTI

File image of Nitish Kumar. PTI

Nitish has been a perception player and has worked very hard to build his image of an administrator to whom good governance and development are at the core. But his image has taken a hit in the second year of his third term as Bihar's chief minister with rising incidents of crime and a slew of serious corruption charges against the family members of his political partner and RJD leader Lalu Prasad Yadav, whose both sons, Tej Pratap and Tejaswi Yadav, are ministers in the Bihar cabinet.

An annoyed Nitish had said that the agencies concerned would do their duty and that his party was built on a different set of principles. But the discomfort of heading a government, whose deputy chief minister and health minister are facing Income Tax Department’s investigation over the charges of amassing benami properties, must be playing in Nitish's mind.

This is evident from JD(U) senior leader KC Tyagi’s statement in which he alluded to the party's alliance with the BJP and said that Nitish was more comfortable when he was part of the NDA alliance.

The chief minister has tried to allay the fears of his supports by distancing himself from Lalu amid demands from the BJP for the removal of Tej Pratap and Tejaswi from the cabinet.

Even in the initial months of alliance with RJD, Nitish never shied away from praising the BJP-led Narendra Modi government which bolstered his image of a decision-maker who can take decisions ignoring political ramifications.

Nitish’s decision to support NDA presidential nominee Ram Nath Kovind has made the Mahagathbandhan fragile with the RJD and the Congress mounting attack on Nitish and accusing him of betraying Opposition unity.

Initially, JD(U) countered RJD and Congress both, but later on Nitish focused his attention on Congress. He also ruled out cracks within the ruling alliance and reminded that the alliance was only for the state, hinting a different approach for the 2019 general elections.

But his latest strategy goes against his image of a decision maker. He has criticised both the BJP and the Congress-led Opposition at the Centre but his criticism for the BJP has been generic in nature. This dual approach is not going down well within the ranks and file of JD(U) as this rules out the option of him going alone in the electoral field.

The arithmetic simply does not allow this. In the last Assembly election, BJP topped the share of vote percentage at 24.4 percent. RJD, JDU and Congress received 18.6, 16.8 and 6.7 percent votes respectively. In total, NDA bagged 34 percent and Mahagathbandhan got 45 percent votes. It is amply clear that no single party will take the risk of going alone in elections. History also suggests so. Just a year before 2015 Assembly election, NDA gained in a big way in general elections in which RJD and JDU fought alone.

Nitish has the option of switching sides, but can't follow the path of 'ekla chalo'. Right now, he is sailing in two boats. But he soon have to choose sides as in  his own words JD(U) won’t be the follower of any party. This ambivalent approach will severely dent his reputation.


Updated Date: Jul 04, 2017 17:21 PM

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